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Linux Certification Update

Whether you're a Linux guru or newbie, you have a number of options when considering certification on this popular operating system.

The Linux operating system continues to gain market share, which means there is an increasing number of systems that need people who can install, administer, and tune it. If you're already a Linux guru, certification can provide the official evidence that will convince potential employers of your expertise. If you're a Linux newbie, the process of earning certification can bring you up to speed on this increasingly popular operating system.

Since the Linux operating system is free, this is one of the less expensive certifications to add to your professional repertoire. You can download Linux from several Web sites (see resource sidebar), or for a small fee request to have it sent to you on CD. And even though it's an operating system, you don't have to dedicate a computer to running it while you're studying (though you might want to). Instead you can create a dual boot system that enables you to keep your existing operating system and get your hands-on Linux practice too.

Another reason to consider Linux certification is the portability of the associated skills; Linux shares a lot of functionality and features with UNIX. Although they are distinct operating systems, expertise in one provides skills in the other, giving you double bang for your training and credentialing efforts.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), The Linux Professional Institute (LPI), Red Hat, and SAIR offer viable Linux certification options. Their offerings are quite diverse in requirements, expense, and focus. For example, Red Hat's certification program is specific to the popular Red Hat distribution of Linux, while the others are vendor-neutral, avoiding allegiance to a particular Linux vendor or distribution. The vendor-neutral offerings were all built on a cooperative basis- drawing upon the expertise and resources of the Linux community and large and small sponsors. Each of the programs is summarized below:

CompTIA Linux+

This is an entry-level, vendor-neutral certification intended to demonstrate foundation level proficiency with the Linux operating system. Earning it requires passing a single covering 7 domains: planning & implementation; installation; configuration; administration; system maintenance; troubleshooting; and identifying, installing, and maintaining system hardware. The exam is in multiple-choice format and consists of 95 questions. It's available through Prometric and VUE testing centers. Exam vouchers must be purchased through CompTIA and cost $149 for CompTIA members and $199 for everyone else.

Starting with its successful A+ service technician certification, CompTIA has established a reputation for creating entry-level computer certifications and then getting industry vendors to recognize them within other certification programs. Vendor-specific certification programs, including those of IBM, Microsoft, Novell, have begun to incorporate or accept CompTIA certifications as meeting requirements for toward their own (vendor-specific) titles. Linux+ is already accepted by IBM as meeting a requirement toward IBM Certified for e-business - Solution Technologist certification.